Tuesday, February 5, 2013

In Celebration of the Bonds of Family


The framed faces on the tables and walls of my home are family -- a moment in their lives captured
and frozen in time -- faces that are precious to me.  How I love the photos of my grandparents as teenagers, the wedding photo of my parents, with their proud smiles, the faded family picnics of long ago, and the sweet Easter morning shot of my sister and me as little girls.  So many of these beloved faces are no longer with us.  As loved ones pass on, new faces are added to this complicated tapestry we call family.  One recent Saturday we all gathered to say good-bye to a beloved uncle.  How sad to know we will no longer hear his laughter and enjoy his enthusiasm for life.  And yet, the next weekend a baby shower welcomed the newest member of our family -- a precious little boy soon to be born.
Life moves forward continuously, and our families change, but our underlying connection remains through both the best and the worst of times.  We all hold a place within our families, and the myriad relationships -- parent, child, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws -- are in a constant state of flux.  One year there may be a serious disagreement between two brothers; in that same year two distant cousins may reconnect and form a new bond.  We experience divisiveness, support, anger and love.  No family is perfect.  I look at the faces in these old photos and remember the times I found myself at odds with some of them, as well as the times when I basked in the warmth of their love and approval. 
For the most part, life has a way of smoothing out our family relationships over the years, bringing us to a place where we realize the importance of family connections in our lives.  There are peacemakers in each family -- those who seek to sew together the rough edges of the various personalities -- leaving the family stronger, with an elasticity of sorts, that allows its members to pull apart at times, but ultimately holds us all together.  In times of sorrow and times of celebration, we can stand together -- maybe not happy about the actions or choices of some, but ready to offer support and love, be it grudgingly or with grace.
Several years ago a dear cousin and I embarked on a genealogical journey.  We traced ancestors back some twelve generations.  We discovered, as we gazed at photos of those gone before we were born or visited the gravestones of long-ago ancestors, that we somehow carry their spirits with us.  One lovely weekend afternoon, in a peaceful cemetery in Chestertown, NY, the scent of wild thyme surrounding me, I stumbled upon the gravesite of my great-great grandparents.  I felt a brief sense of recognition -- almost a feeling of coming home -- as if our strong family connection actually transcends time. 
And so, we celebrate this wonderful gift of family.  We pass on the stories, the photos, and the spirits of those who came before us, and nurture the bonds that we share.  We keep in touch, share the milestones in our lives, mourn the losses, and gather now and then to party together.  No one knows our faults better; no one can else can make us so angry, and no one else is forced to love us no matter what!  Family is our greatest blessing.

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